Forever Scarred: Traumatizing Moments from YA Novels

Like Joey Tribbiani, we believe that some books belong in the freezer. If you aren’t a Friends fanatic, that’s a reference to the episode where Joey kept The Shining in the freezer because it was too scary. When he and Rachel do a book exchange, we learn that it isn’t just overtly gory fiction that makes you want to freeze away your feelings:

Whether gross, creepy, or just plain sad, these are some moments in YA fiction that had us reaching for the icebox:

The One Where Dobby Dies

I admittedly was very late to the Harry Potter game. Like, I didn’t start reading the series until the seventh book came out. I blame my parents. Anyways, as I was reading the books from the beginning, I would discuss my thoughts and feelings about what was happening to my friend who had read them already. In particular, I remember being so incredibly annoyed and mad at Dobby. Inherently, I disliked him for his affiliation with the Malfoys, but also I couldn’t stand the way he spoke in third person. “Listen to Dobby!” “Bad Dobby!” “Dobby is fed up with this Malfoy bullshit!” As I continued reading, he began to have a soft spot in my heart and soon became one of my favorite characters. So when he was killed by Bellatrix’s knife after essentially saving HP, I was absolutely gutted. He was devoted and loyal to Harry, and passed away in the most heroic way. I had to stop reading because I was so stunned and also the tears were clouding my eyes and prohibiting my ability to read.

Hazel’s ‘Fake’ Eulogy for Augustus

SPEAKING OF BLUBBERING AND TEARS. THIS ENTIRE PASSAGE:

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

The Hunger Games in General

Like a lot of other people, I like and appreciate the world Suzanne Collins created, it’s easy to forget just how troubling the premise is. Before the first movie came out, I was explaining to someone (a mother of three) what the books are about. It wasn’t until then, when I was saying it outloud to someone who has kids that I realized just how effed up it must be that we get entertainment out of these books, in particular the first one. As a parent, she must have been picturing what it would be like if her kids were put in that situation, when you have no choice but to watch your kid fight to the death in a televised sport. I know the series is more than this, but, still. How messed up.

Stacey McGill’s Diabetes Pee

Everything I know about diabetes I learned from Ann M. Martin. But the most traumatizing lesson was when Stacy hadn’t yet been diagnosed, and she wet the bed at a sleepover because diabetes makes you pee a lot. This led to her losing her best New York City friend. The diabetes also caused Stacey’s divorced parents to fight all the time and to bring her to some sort of quack doctor. When she tries to play it cool and not tell her BSC friends about the diabetes, they assume she has a shady secret. AND when everyone is tucking into Claudia’s food hoarder snacks, the narrator always explains that they have saltines or something for Stacey. Basically if you get diabetes you will pee everywhere and your life will be ruined, is what I learned. For more BSC thoughts, see our The Baby-Sitters Club: The Musical — Excerpts From The Libretto.

Jonas’s Dad Kills Babies

Ah, The Giver. Probably one of my favorite YA books of all time. Except for that part where Jonas’s usually-chill dad is seen cooing at an adorable little baby then shooting it up with death drugs because it was a twin, which was against the rules. Then Jonas learns that the baby who has been hanging out with his family is also on death row so he escapes into the wilderness with it. Damn.

You Might Get Cancer. Love, Lurlene McDaniel

Remember Lurlene McDaniel? She wrote treacly, vaguely Christian books about teens with terminal illness. She covered all manner of diseases but I knew her best from the Dawn Rochelle books, which were about a 1980s teen who has leukemia. McDaniel probably did a lot to teach the youths that kids living with disease are just like us. But it’s almost like she did a little TOO good a job because as someone who bruises easily and is prone to violent, cascading nosebleeds, I definitely spent my junior high years being like “you know who had these problems? Dawn ‘Leukemia’ Rochelle.” Most traumatic moment: when Dawn’s friend and hospital roomie died and Dawn got her Bible with that one part of Ecclesiastes underlined.

Open-Air Mating In The Alien Zoo

Our high school was notorious for ridiculous eight-book-long summer reading lists, where most of the books were 400-page tomes set on the British moors. But Junior Year, they assigned at least one “hip,” “modern” book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that these disgusting slimy aliens abducted the main character and he had to live in a human zoo. They brought a porn star in and the two of them, like …. mated. In front of the disgusting terrible aliens. Who were cheering, maybe? It was horrible.

Those Disgusting Button Eyes

Coraline discovers Other Mother and Other Father, who are alternate-universe parents who have button eyes. Then Coraline, a human person, is supposed to sew buttons over her own eyes to “match.” And THEN she meets ghost children onto whom the Other Mother had sewn button eyes. Nah.

 

 

 

Life Lessons From The Fault in Our Stars: C+S Book Club

Hey C+S Book Club-ers! Last time we visited Harriet the Spy, and since we’re ladies in our *late 20s*, our next choice is obviously a little more mature than a kid spy. This time it’s about teenagers.

By now, most of you have heard about or read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a young adult novel about two teens, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters who meet and fall in love. Oh and they both have cancer. I remember reading this for back when it first came out and appropriately crying harder than I have ever cried before. Legit had to stop reading it for a few days because it made me that sad. Now that the movie is coming out today, I can only imagine how that feeling will be magnified thousands of times more once I see it with my eyes. But essentially, TFiOS isn’t supposed to be a sad story, it’s supposed to be a celebration of life, no matter how long or short it is. So with that, here are just a few of the life lessons I gleaned from reading this book – **spoilers ahead** (but you should really read this book and see the movie anyways).

You can’t escape the hurdles

“I wondered if hurdlers ever thought, ‘This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.'”

Hazel & Augustus initially meet in a cancer support group for teens, so a lot of the folks we encounter in the book (save for the parents and hospital staff) have been dealt a rather bad card of hands when it comes to overcoming difficulties in life. But it’s there in front of them, and the only thing to do is try to clear it and get to the next problem. We may face hardships in our life, but we can’t just give up. What would become of us if we didn’t have hardships or hurdles to get over and improve our lives (hopefully) for the better? The things that try to bring us down in the past only make us stronger. And then we can look back and see just what we’ve gone through.

Pain demands to be felt

“That’s the thing about pain – it demands to be felt”

Pain wouldn’t be pain if we didn’t at least feel something when we get hurt. You can’t go on avoiding something that you know is going to hurt you because you don’t want to feel it. If you do, it’s going to get worse and worse, so it’s better to just let it all out. In TFiOS, Augustus’ BFF Isaac has eye cancer, and subsequently has to undergo surgery which leaves him blind. During this time, his girlfriend breaks up with him, and he has so much rage that he just needs to let it all out. Augustus lets Isaac demolish his old basketball trophies in his basement, as if it’s no big deal. Why? Because Isaac needed to let it out. There’s no use of keeping that anger and frustration in. And while it might be gut-wrenching as it happens, that pain needs to be felt – or it will never go away.

Time isn’t good to anyone

“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few days I’ve said, “HOW IS IT JUNE ALREADY?!?” When we want time to speed up, it seems to slow down. When we want it to slow down, it’s like it’s gone in seconds. Luckily, everyone is a victim of time’s bitter kiss. Both Hazel and Augustus know they don’t have very good chances of staying alive forever, so it’s even more frustrating that they fall in love knowing this devastating fact. But the most they – and we – can do is make the most of our time, and not waste it on things we will regret doing.

Dare to be fearless

“Our fearlessness shall be our secret weapon.”

It’s easier said than done, but a problem I think a lot of people have is not being afraid to jump in and do something out of your comfort zone, no matter the outcome. We worry too much about what’s going to happen next that we don’t think about how great it could be if we even try. For the longest time, Hazel put her feelings about Augustus to the side, and refused to let their friendship turn romantic, as she called herself a “grenade”, ready to explode at any second. She finally put that fear aside and let her guard down, only to experience one of the greatest loves of her life.

Your true self is revealed in the darkest of times

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

Like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon, there were the people who ran away from the explosions, then there were the first responders who initial reaction was to run towards the problem to see who they could help. That first gut reaction of how you respond to something tragic and life-changing tells a lot about you as a person. You can either give up, not face the “hurdles”, or you can be strong, live a life – live a better life knowing that whatever caused you grief in the first place has since given you reason to become a better person. When Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Hazel takes note that Anne’s father, Otto, was the only one out of their family to survive the Holocaust. She says, “I thought about Otto Frank not being a father anymore, left with a diary instead of a wife and two daughters.” Otto eventually decided to publish that diary, and of course it went on to become on of the most revered and studied books from the war. Otto didn’t give up when he was left alone – he preserved their legacy.

You can’t always get what you want

“The world is not a wish granting factory.”

“Cancer perks” are what Hazel and Augustus call the things they’ve received in sympathy for their struggles with cancer, you know the Make-a-Wish type things. Throughout the book, they make it clear that their sickness is not what defines them, it’s just something they have to live with, therefore the cancer perks, while usually cool, ultimately doesn’t give them what they really want. If you do want something, you have to work for it, and if you don’t get it – you don’t get it. Not everything is going to work out in your favor, but the most we can do is try.

A life is still important, no matter how long or how short

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

Probably one of the most quoted excerpts from the book, this line really sums up the entire story of Hazel and Augustus. Towards the end of the book (again, spoiler alert, I’ve warned you twice!) Augustus dies, another teenager succumbing to that bitch called cancer. While his life may have been short compared to you know, people who live to be 100, he still lived a significant life. The point of the book isn’t to feel sorry for Hazel and Gus, it’s to remind us that a life, no matter how long, or how short, can still make a profound impact on those around you, but it’s our choice  as to how we decide to live it.

What’s In Shailene Woodley’s Bag?

According to Shailene Woodley, Shailene Woodley is a clay-eating, toothpaste-making, showtune-in-the-morning singing not-feminist who talks about “Gaia” and gathers spring water from a mountain brook. She’s also slightly homeless. Does this surprise anyone?

Woodley’s not homeless in the “not having a home” sense: she owns one, but her grandma lives there (because, if it doesn’t come through enough here: Shailene Woodley seems really, really nice). She’s more homeless in the “sleeping on my friends’ sofas, clogging the sink drain with lumps of clay, encouraging them to use those salt crystal sticks that, no, do NOT work just as well as deodorant, thank you very much” sense. (While we’re at it, I feel bad that regular deodorant is going to give me Alzheimers/cancer and if anyone could point me to a natural alternative that doesn’t make me smell, it’s probably Shailene).

Well, let’s let Shailene explain it, actually:

So … is Shailene Woodley magic? (Probably, yeah; wouldn’t be surprised.) Jimmy Kimmel examines her assertion that all of her possessions can fit in one carry-on sized bag, but Shai’s not really helping. Is this a normal bag or is it a mystical bottomless bag, a la Mary Poppins or The Barney Bag? I can only assume that it’s the latter, maybe given to her on a moonlit mountain sojourn by an enchanted forest crone.

Let’s inventory Shailene Woodley’s bag. On Kimmel she lists the following items: (1) computer; (1) hoodie situation; (1) pair jeans; (some) basic tees and tanks; (1) temporary cell phone because the studio got annoyed that she kept disappearing into the wilderness to worship the moon goddess; and (indeterminate) leggings.

Okay, let’s all picture all of those items. They’d totally fit into an airplane-standard carry-on, I think we can all agree. But that can’t be it, right? Based on my research, here are some other things that Shailene Woodley owns:

  • Vibram Five-Finger Shoes: Those glove-shoes that seem like they were invented by the guy who has the patent on those little round blister band-aids, in order to drum up business.

  • Water jugs: Specifically, “5-gallon carboy situations”. Girl. You know this isn’t fitting in a carry-on – wheeled or duffel. Maybe it’s her personal item.

  • Makeup and makeup remover: You can read all about Shailene’s favorite products here. You could make an argument that she doesn’t own the makeup and only wears it for appearances, but at least the remover sort of has to live with her.
  • Just a little bit of shampoo: Because she only shampoos about once a month. See article, above. (I tried this for a while and it worked until it didn’t. Some people swear by it. Probably depends on your hair type.)
  • Some clay: She eats about a teaspoon of clay every day, and makes toothpaste out of it as well. I’d say conservative estimate, you can count on at least two cups of clay so she doesn’t have to keep buying clay all the time. But if you are extra crazy and go to the website of Woodley’s recommended clay vendor, you would see that the smallest size clay-ball is 1 pound. So there you have it. A one-pound bag of clay, chipped away a teaspoon at a time.
  • This horseradish root:

See, she has a sense of humor about her hippie-neo-witch vibe, and that’s why I like her.

  • A mason jar: She carries one everywhere. Says co-star Miles Teller, “she always has a mason jar and 100% of the time it smells like crap.” Well, there’s that, then.

  • Presumably some kind of reusable menstrual product deal:  She follows DivaCup and New Moon pads on Twitter, and I can’t imagine you follow those companies because of all their awesome 140-character jokes, right? Also, this tweet:

I’ve now spent enough time in Woodley’s twitter feed to know that she calls her period “moon time.” New product idea: that one puberty class you had to go to in fifth grade, rewritten by Shailene Woodley to be 100% more earthy. 10/10, would attend.

  • Mushroom tea: I can’t imagine this tasting like anything but diluted, terrible mushroom soup. I’m only including the tea here because I’m pretty sure that the kind of people who host Shailene Woodley on their guest futon also are the type of people who own a tea kettle.
  • Chinese herbal supplements: the better to make her breath smell of dirt and creeks and forests before kissing scenes. Her costar literally used the word “musty.”

HOLY SHIT THAT’S A LOT OF STUFF.

I’m not trying to put bad vibes into the universe towards Shailene Woodley (because you know who puts good vibes into the universe? Probably Shailene Woodley). She seems really earnest and well-intentioned, and people who know her (John Green; George Clooney; etc) all seem to like her a whole lot. She was also Felicity Merriman in an adaptation of the American Girl series, and Marissa Cooper’s little sister in The O.C., so that’s cool.

It’s just that, for those of us who have ever struggled to fit two weeks worth of possessions into a carry-on tote so we don’t have to pay a checked bag fee … this is a lot to take. A lot. I can forgive Shailene for making clay-eating sound like a good idea even though it’s actually a certifiable medical disorder.  I’m not even jealous that she manages to look pretty in that 1997 soccer mom haircut in The Fault In Our Stars. But going on national television, bragging about a magical carry-on bag that could fit all of these possessions, and not even directing us up the woodland path to the kindly mountain witch who peddles them? Not cool.

I hope there’s room for my disappointment in Shailene’s bag, because she carries it with her wherever she goes.